The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent: Season of the Seed

November 27, 2011
First Sunday of Advent--B
Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7
1Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37
The Mass readings the last several weeks leading up to this first Sunday of Advent have reminded us of the Christian’s need for vigilance. As I mentioned in a posting a couple weeks ago:
We must properly dispose and prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ. We both wait and work for the Kingdom of God. Through his Holy Spirit, and with the aid of Scripture, the sacraments, the tradition of the Church and all those within it, God is among us. “The Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus tells us (Luke 17:21).
But the Kingdom of God grows silently, in hidden fashion, like a tiny seed planted in the dark but fertile earth. Taking nourishment from that soil and water from above, the seed will send forth a shoot reaching toward the sun to grow and bear fruit. Farmers--or gardeners--know that growing crops requires patience and perseverance, not to mention hard work. But the farmer or gardener can only plant and cultivate. The crop grows on its own—he knows not how—by God’s grace and in the silence of the night.
So, once again, today’s readings urge us to wait in hope, to be alert. Something great is about to happen, and we don’t want to miss it! In fact, it is already unfolding within our daily lives, and Advent is a special invitation to pause and ponder that mystery more fully.
In the monastery refectory (dining room) each Advent and Lent, we listen in silence during dinner to some type of spiritual reading appropriate to the season. This Advent, we are listening to one of my all-time favorites: The Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander. The beautiful imagery she employs evokes the mystery of the Kingdom of God as being both "now" and "not yet" -- as a sprouting seed to contemplate with the silent vigilance of Advent.
God has come among us and leads us to the fullness of life. This is the big news of the day. It’s not the new Roman Missal translation. It’s silently growing, through faith, into Christ, who gives himself to the Church so she may feed the world with the Bread of Life. As Houselander says:
Advent is the season of the seed: Christ loved this symbol of the seed.
The seed, he said, is the Word of God sown in the human heart.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.”
“So is the Kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the earth.”
Even his own life-blood: “Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone.”
The Advent, the seed of the world's life, was hidden in Our Lady.

Like the wheat seed in the earth, the seed of the Bread of Life was in her.

Like the golden harvest in the darkness of the earth, the Glory of God was enshrined in her darkness.

Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence.

For nine months, Christ grew in his Mother’s body. By his own will she formed him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give him but herself.

Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming his body from hers. His flesh and blood. From her humanity she gave him his humanity. All her experience of the world about her was gathered to Christ growing in her. She gave him his flesh and blood. She prepared the Host for the Mass.

This time of Advent is absolutely essential to our contemplation, too. If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us that we do not disturb this time of growth. It is a time of darkness, of faith. We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness.

Nevertheless, we must believe that he is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything, to this incredible reality. This attitude is is which makes every moment of every day and night a prayer.

When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense. It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of self like a little tent around the child's frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day to bring forth, the life. A closing upon it like petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in its heart.

This is precisely the attitude we must have toward Christ, the Life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.
-- Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

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